Razorback athletics, the basketball program in particular, has made great use of the transfer portal recently. But common logic dictates that those same transfer rules can and will bite any program in the butt eventually. Hog football fans found that out this week when senior-to-be wide receiver Mike Woods, who caught 32 passes for 619 yards and five touchdowns in 2020 and was one of the offensive standouts in last Saturday’s Red-White football game, announced his intention to leave the program in a move that seemingly came out of the blue.
Rumors were swirling on Tuesday that Woods was contacted in the last few days by a top 10 program through back channels with an offer too good to refuse. If true the decision could be something similar to the one made by Miami basketball transfer Chris Lykes who said he picked Arkansas because it was a fit for his skillset but was also a school that wins at a high level.
Hog football fans had better get used to this because as the COVID immediate eligibility rule ends the NCAA’s one time transfer with immediate eligibility begins in addition to the existing grad transfer rule.
The secret is to know what’s out there at any given time. If you lose a player be ready to go after one. If you have a need outside your roster, like Sam Pittman and his offensive staff had at quarterback last year, go find a Feleipe Franks.
It’s been somewhat surprising to me to see the media reaction to Wood’s departure on social media. Comments like, “a huge blow” and “this is big,” give the impression that the situation at receiver is gloomy heading into the 2021 season.
Long before Wood’s announcement Pittman had stressed the need for an expanded contribution from the receivers room. In 2020 Woods and Treylon Burks accounted for 45% of the team’s total catches and 60% of the receiving touchdowns. Only five receivers caught a pass the entire season.
In 2021 Pittman is eyeing contributions from Burks, Trey Knox, Florida State transfer Warren Thompson and freshman Ketron Jackson Jr. Each are former 4-star recruits, 6-2 and above, with excellent speed. Throw in De’Vion Warren, Tyson Morris and the Drew Morgan-like John David White with a couple of more freshmen and it’s easy to see Pittman’s vision of a more diverse contribution from the receivers.
In addition, tight ends Blake Kern, Hudson Henry and Koilan Jackson will have a prominent role in the passing attack with Arkansas’ running backs also involved. The idea is to give quarterback K.J. Jefferson more options while preventing opposing defenses from loading up to stop Burks and one or two other targets.
Woods won’t be the last Razorback football player to hit the portal. The goal of Sam Pittman and his staff moving forward is to end up with more take than give from that portal and always be prepared to adjust when losing a Mike Woods-type talent.
Get used to it. It’s not going away.